The diversity of the nurse consultant role is something Lisa Dougherty has embraced at the Royal Marsden
Travel back in time to South Africa in 1979 and you’d find Lisa Dougherty training to be a nurse. The current nurse consultant in IV therapy was then living in Durban, before returning to the UK four years later following a short-lived career as a midwife.
When Ms Dougherty came back, she realised that she wanted to go into oncology and IV therapy – and she’s never looked back since.
As a nurse consultant at the Royal Marsden Foundation Trust, she splits her time between clinical work, teaching and developing the intravenous therapy service, while balancing the responsibilities of her role as a director-at-large on the board of the Association for Vascular Access (AVA).
Oh, and she’s an editor of The Royal Marsden Hospital Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures, one of the best-selling nursing textbooks in the UK. It’s amazing she has time to sleep, let alone keep up with her responsibilities.
“The nurse consultant role is so lovely, as I still get to interact with patients while advising colleagues on IV therapy”
Those responsibilities are varied, too. Her primary gig as nurse consultant entails a lot of components, but she says the diversity of the role is what makes it so interesting – and there’s always patient interaction, her favourite part, to get her through.
“The nurse consultant role is so lovely, as I still get to interact with patients while advising colleagues on IV therapy,” she reflects. “You’re not just a manager, you’re not just in education, you’re still with patients – and that’s the bit I love the most.”
It can be a challenge working and implementing change in a busy NHS, so her position as the AVA’s board lead for global strategy can
be a welcome break. Ms Dougherty is tasked with working with the global strategy team, facilitating the AVA’s profile and influence around the world – a task she’s suited to as the first non-American elected to the board.
Often, the two positions overlap and require similar skills. Ms Dougherty says she’s learned strategic skills within the nurse consultant role that have helped her with work for the AVA.
“I couldn’t have been on the AVA board 10 or 12 years ago because I didn’t have the experience of being a nurse consultant,” she says. “All those things I’ve learned through the nurse consultant role have allowed me to become an involved member.”
She also has leadership experience in similar organisations, as the former chair of both the intravenous nursing forum within the Royal College of Nursing and the National Infusion and Vascular Access Society (NIVAS), which she helped set up after leaving the RCN and chaired for six years.
“All those things I’ve learned through the nurse consultant role have allowed me to become an involved member.”
Ms Dougherty says the time was right for her to leave NIVAS and let someone else take over, and when a member of the AVA suggested she put her name forward for one of three open positions, it all seemed to work out.
Her passion for IV therapy is clear in her voice when she talks about it, as is her desire for patients to have the best possible encounter when undergoing insertion of a vascular access device or receiving intravenous therapy.
“I want them to be involved in the choice, so they have the right device at the right time and they don’t have a traumatic experience,” Ms Dougherty says. “I want to improve their chemotherapy experience, so they don’t have to keep having needles stuck into them”.
But she warns people against assuming her job is easy based on appearances. “When you’re experienced at doing these things, you make it look easy, but it’s very much a practice-based skill,” she says. “Because I’ve been doing it for 30 years, I can make it look easy but there’s a little more to it and it’s all about keeping up the practice.”
Ms Dougherty also tries to share her passion with staff, not just for IV therapy, but for nursing in general. She aims to nurture and inspire her staff to move forward in their careers and continue improving their care for patients, because she’s always looking to “make it a better practice for patients”.
She tells staff to “look for an area you’re passionate about”, which is also her best advice for anyone starting out in nursing. And if that passion happens to be IV therapy, she’ll welcome them with open arms.